— By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall football coach Doc Holliday will be in his normal spot at the 50-yard line on Saturday as he greets 18 seniors who will play in front of the Herd faithful one last time when Marshall welcomes UTSA for a Conference USA interdivisional battle.
The game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. and it will be shown nationally on Stadium Facebook Live.
Marshall (6-3, 4-2) earned bowl eligibility last weekend with a 30-13 home win over Charlotte, while UTSA (3-7, 2-4) assured itself of a losing season when it was beaten by East Division leader Florida International 45-7.
For the most part, the Herd senior class can be classified as winners. With the exception of a 3-9 season in 2016, the group has been part of winning teams at Marshall that have each won bowls. The Herd will find out in two weeks where this year’s postseason destination will be.
Holliday says each senior day is special to him due to the close contact between he and his players.
“It is an emotional deal to watch them come out there for the last time, but the good thing about this year is that we still have a couple more games left,” Holliday said. “It is always emotional when they walk out for the last time, especially here and I’m sure that this Saturday will be no different.”
The UTSA contest is the second of a two-game homestand for Marshall. Both last week’s Charlotte contest, which memorialized the 75 victims of the November 14, 1970 plane crash, and this week’s Senior Day will be packed with emotion, but Holliday believes his team is mature enough to handle the situation.
“Any time you play your last game at the Joan, which these guys are, it is very emotional for the seniors,” Holliday said. “The young guys have great respect for the seniors and what they have accomplished here.
“For a lot of these guys, it will be their fourth bowl that they will go to and they have accomplished a lot of things, so it is important that we send them out the right way.”
The 2018 season has been tough to swallow for UTSA fans, as a young Roadrunners squad has struggled to compete with most of the teams on its schedule.
UTSA has picked up wins against Texas State and Conference USA West Division cellar dwellers Rice and UTEP. The Roadrunners’ seven losses include non-conference setbacks against Arizona State, Baylor and Kansas State.
Third-year UTSA head coach Frank Wilson had a winning record each of first two seasons and a 2016 New Mexico Bowl trip. Defensive end Marcus Davenport was a 2018 first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints and brought plenty of attention to the program.
Wilson says he’s optimistic about his team’s future despite this year’s woes, which have included an unusually high number of injuries and mistakes made by reserves.
“When all these guys come back, I am excited for our future,” Wilson said. “All of those things are on the outlook and good things will come from our program in years to come.”
Wilson doesn’t believe his players are giving up on the season.
“They are able to get up and go practice and give their best efforts,” Wilson said. “Our goal is to put ourselves in a position to win, to show improvement and continue to get better and to be in position to win these last games against Marshall and North Texas.”
Holliday believes that despite UTSA’s struggles, a win in Saturday’s game won’t come easily for the Herd.a
“You turn on that tape and you see that they have some of the best receivers in the league,” Holliday said. “They have running backs, an offensive line that is solid, the quarterback play has been a little inconsistent, but they have talent at that position.
“They have some good players back on defense, so we just have to make sure that we are prepared, have a great week of practice and go out there and play really hard.”